September 27, 2021
Affair Recovery: Therapist Approved Strategies for Healing
Written by Sara Lane
If you have googled “How to recover from an affair,” we’re sorry this day has come.
Whether you are the one who strayed or not, it was a challenge for you to get here. Give yourself a moment to appreciate that.
You’re one step farther on the journey to affair recovery. Now, let’s talk about infidelity.
It’s far more common than people realize. Over 60% of men and 40% of women today will be involved in an extramarital relationship while they are married.
Infidelity has many forms and looks different in every situation, but one universal aspect is pain. You will have a therapist’s perspective on how best to process this and how to determine if affair recovery is possible for your marriage.
As you read this, remember to be kind to yourself because this is a big step.
We will be covering the following topics:
- Types of Infidelity
- Reasons Why Infidelity Happens
- Can Your Marriage Recover from the Affair?
- Lessons to Learn After an Affair
- Rebuilding Connection
- Affair Recovery Counseling
The future of your marriage is really up to you and your partner. It’s not a decision to be made in the heat of an argument, though, but something to consider with clear heads and over as long a time as it takes for you both to heal from the affair and be sure what you want to do.
Types of Infidelity
Everyone has a different kind of affair—short and fleeting or long and lasting.
Different kinds have different consequences.
Short, casual affairs
Short affairs can happen in sequences. The offender might have a series of one-night stands where there is very little time or emotion invested. One might rationalize these kinds of experiences as something of little consequence. Sadly, this form often induces the contraction of sexually transmitted diseases.
When this kind of affair is discovered, often due to the unknowing party also contracting an STD, there is a difficult healing process waiting. If this has continued for years, there are years of deceit unearthed.
Romantic affairs with emotional involvement
These kinds of affairs are usually full-on relationships, and there is a great deal of emotional and sexual intimacy.
An emotional affair often starts out as a friendship but eventually leads to emotional intimacy equal to or greater than the one with your partner. Emotional affairs are just as damaging as affairs with sexual intimacy.
Cyber or online affairs
These types of affairs occur solely online via message boards, webcam, chat, text, even anonymous and may be perceived by the one participating as harmless. However, they can involve both emotional and sexual intimacy and a betrayal of trust regardless of whether the participants have ever met in person.
Both emotional and sexual intimacy are part of a healthy relationship. Secrets, betrayal, and erosion of that intimate bond damage trust and safety in your relationship.
A strong relationship is built on the foundation of both emotional and sexual intimacy, which develops in a context of trust and safety. When one or both is violated, the relationship becomes an unsafe space, which blocks connection and intimacy.
Why Does Infidelity Happen?
Everyone wishes there was a simple answer to this question, but there isn’t.
Your experience is yours, and your partner’s experience is theirs. There is no way to rationalize the pain by pointing to a possible cause and hoping that closes this chapter, and it will take more than that to get past this.
That being said, here are the typical “reasons” people stray.
- Crisis – during a significant change or transition like moving to a new place, leaving a job, or the death of a loved one
- Excitement – one person in the relationship becomes bored and seeks excitement their original commitment is lacking
- Stress – due to the strain of everyday life, one person seeks an escape
- Expectations – their marriage is not what they thought it would be, and so they look for outside attachments
- Illness – one partner may seek attention when their partner is indisposed due to sickness
- Affection – they seek what their partner is unable to provide
- Advancement – whether that be personal or professional
Marriage in our society is made out to be almost like a fairytale, but it’s not. And so people get into commitments expecting one thing and find something completely different.
Is it Possible to Recover from an Affair?
Amid the hurt, anger, and shame–the scalding emotions of betrayal– you wonder if affair recovery is possible. Is it possible to rebuild your life together?
Affair recovery is immensely complicated, both for the individual and for the marriage. An affair represents betrayal, broken promises, secrets, and lost trust.
Perhaps the damage done by lies is even worse than the hurt of infidelity. To keep a spouse ignorant of essential information is to manipulate them.
Staying in the marriage may seem harder than leaving it.
How do you know if the rewards are worth the struggle?
5 Ways to Know if Affair Recovery is Possible
Both spouses must be committed. Each must seek personal recovery first. The spouse who experienced infidelity must be willing to heal from injury, anger, and regret, or these feelings will further poison the marriage.
The straying spouse must take responsibility for the affair, explore the reasons for it, and make necessary changes, or the affair might happen again.
You know that affair recovery is possible if you can answer “Yes” to these questions:
1. Was Your Marriage Before Discovery of the Affair Good for Both of You?
Your marriage is worth saving if you genuinely like each other.
- Do you enjoy each other’s company? If you share the same values and interests and prioritize the same things, you have an advantage.
- In the past, did you respect and appreciate each other?
- Do you see each other as equals? If either of you felt used or taken for granted, that will have to change.
The marriage is worth saving if you count on each other for support when you need it. And, of course, you must be able to satisfy each other sexually.
2. Are You Both Committed to Making Your Marriage Work?
The betrayed partner.
The injured spouse, along with a commitment to the marriage, must move from humiliation to understanding and tolerance. Accepting your spouse’s apology is crucial. You can’t heal if you still want revenge.
Recognize your own role in the development of the affair. Were you emotionally unavailable? Angry or critical?
Death ends with grief. To you, in some ways, your marriage has died, and there are stages of loss that you’ll go through. Let yourself feel all of it. Perhaps, explore some of those feelings by journaling or talking with a therapist.
It’s important for you to work through your hurt feelings and not get stuck. Both individual and couples therapy can help with the recovery process.
And ultimately, when you are prepared and want to do so, you’ll let go of the anger and get to the forgiving part.
The cheating spouse.
Of course, the cheating spouse must end the affair and cut all ties with the other man or woman. You have to make a conscious choice to be faithful.
Examine how you got into the situation. What choices did you make that you now regret?
Consider your deeper motivations. What was the affair supposed to do for you? Did you feel you couldn’t say “No?” Were you angry at your spouse?
You’ll need to have plenty of understanding on hand about your partner’s need to ask questions or not. You’ll need to understand their struggle to trust you and be willing to work on restoring that.
You should expect to give a lot of reassurance to your partner regarding different parts of your relationship, your commitment to your marriage, and how you feel about them.
You may want to defend yourself and even blame your partner for actions that led to the affair, but if you want this to end with you two recovering, you’ll need to listen and take credit for the pain you caused. They will need to hear you apologize or admit that you were wrong.
Something that might feel good directly relates to this is writing a letter where you ask for forgiveness and free yourself of the burden of all the deceit. If you work through these reasons and choices and commit to the marriage, you can have an improved relationship.
Journaling Exercise: My Part in this Relationship
3. Can You Develop Effective Communication?
Effective communication includes feeling comfortable sharing your thoughts with each other. Can you talk about sensitive issues like sex? Do you listen to each other?
When you disagree, can you work together to resolve the argument? If you can disagree without hostility and contempt you increase your chances of weathering this storm.
4. Do You Both Promise Complete Honesty?
Transparency is crucial to affair recovery. Don’t withhold information.
Besides acknowledging mistakes, the cheating spouse must be patient with questions, lack of trust, and even snooping by the injured spouse. And don’t bury your feelings. Talk about them. Deal with the fallout.
5. Are You Willing to Seek Professional Counseling?
Learning to accept and live with what has happened is crucial. Focusing on building a better future is hard work.
Couples therapy for affair recovery will be something the two of you should consider as you navigate this time together. Research finds that more than half the couples who use counseling to facilitate affair recovery are still married and happy five years later.
Your therapist will act as a knowledgeable guide as you explore what happened in your relationship and how you got to that point. The focus in couples therapy is on the relationship, not one person.
What that means is that you will both be accountable for your part in working on your relationship. It should be a safe space for both of you.
Lessons to Learn After an Affair
Within the process of affair recovery, be on the lookout for what you can learn. Regardless of what resolution you choose, you will need to move forward.
The relationship lessons you discover amidst the sadness and anger can help carry you through whatever comes next.
1. What’s Not Working?
How the betrayer explains their actions is a window into how they feel about being part of a couple with you. Of course, every relationship has issues, and this breach of trust has the power to thrust those issues into the spotlight.
Examine them closely and don’t shy away.
If you guys aren’t spending enough time together, address it.
- Why is that?
- What makes that easier than coming together?
2. What is Working?
Amidst all the pain of betrayal, it’s not uncommon for couples to dwell on everything wrong and ignore the better qualities of their relationship. You and your significant other will take stock of what they like or love about your relationship in the right setting.
This is another useful window. Take time to ponder the connection that lies beneath the current crisis.
3. What Does Trust Mean to Me?
Your world has been rocked, and your trust has been betrayed. Both partners will have to relearn what it means to trust and be trusted.
Every situation has unique nuances. However, each one of us defines “trust” differently. No matter what your definition is, be sure to decide this without outside influence.
Are you feeling hypervigilant about your partner’s behavior and finding it difficult to restore trust after recommitment and focus on your relationship? You may be experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms from sexual betrayal.
Learn more: 11 signs you should leave your relationship
Summing Up Affair Recovery
Attempting affair recovery is perhaps a marriage’s most difficult challenge. Whether affair recovery is possible for you depends, to a great extent, upon various factors.
But, all in all, working to recover the formerly good parts of the relationship makes sense. Particularly if your marriage, prior to the discovery of the affair, was still mutually enjoyable in key ways that are important to you both.
You are more likely to put in the time and effort for recovery if you are both committed to making the marriage work.
If both partners learn to communicate effectively, you are on your way to rebuilding the trust necessary for affair recovery.
Your mutual commitment to honesty, to healing the damage done by lies as well as that done by infidelity, will make rebuilding trust possible. Increase your chances of recovering from an affair and developing a stronger marriage.
Choose to seek the help of a professional counselor.
Post Affair Recovery
Getting through infidelity is extremely difficult, and it takes a lot of work. In most cases, it pays off because you get what you give.
With that in mind, let’s talk about what you can do to help strengthen your relationship once you have begun healing.
- Pay attention to your partner and spend time alone with them. Other aspects of life can chip away at the attention we usually give our relationships, but this is a mistake.
- Attend to your partner’s needs. If you have a partner that is more or less sexual than you, that difference is something you can work on amending, and it might even be fun to work on.
- Look for opportunities to make your partner feel seen. Take action in thoughtful ways. Being aware of their love languages would be helpful here.
- Revisit behaviors you displayed when you fell in love. What did you both fall in love with about each other? Do the same things now.
- Be kind and polite to your partner.
- Greet your partner when you come home and take a moment to hold each other until you feel your bodies relax.
- In public and private settings, say nice things like compliments or considerate comments
- Display how happy you are to see your partner
- Find ways to convey your appreciation and respect for your partner
- Think of ways to enhance their self-esteem
In the long run, you must proactively nurture your relationship. It is, beyond all else, the most important investment you will make in your life, and it needs to be prioritized.
Maybe you both commit to avoiding high-risk situations and recommit to what your core values are. Make a life that is in line with those values.
And if it wasn’t clear before this point, you need to remember that you are responsible for your happiness and well-being. Though your partner is involved, they are not the one who is solely in charge. You are.
If you need to change things about your relationship or your life, you need to change before expecting your partner to do it.
How to Recover From an Affair with Couples Therapy
Infidelity has a way of blurring reality. You may find you can’t even trust yourself, and this is not unusual. It’s also manageable. Whether you attend alone or with your partner, therapy can be a healing choice.
A couples therapist has vast experience with many relationship issues and is equipped with valuable relationship lessons. They can guide you during such a difficult time.
Your therapy sessions will serve as a safe space in which to explore the wide range of emotions you are juggling. It’s also where you and your spouse can honestly and directly discuss your perspectives on what the immediate future holds.
Betrayal can be traumatic.
Fortunately, help is available. Reach out for a consultation soon.
In Houston, TX, and online, Eddins Counseling Group has many experienced couples counselors that can help after an affair. Call us at 832-559-2622 or book an appointment online.
Grounding & Self Soothing
Get instant access to your free ebook.