An Infidelity Therapist's view on repairing your relationship after an affair
"In order to receive forgiveness you have to earn it. To earn forgiveness and trust you have to want it, and you have to be dedicated to helping your partner recover."
In my practice as a Therapist and Life Coach specializing in Infidelity Recovery and correlating issues, I have clients across the United States that are traumatized and desperately wanting to heal from infidelity. Everyone wants to know what it will take for the relationship to recover and they want it fast. I try my best to explain the process clearly, and that change takes time and plenty of patience, especially in dealing with the emotional rollercoaster of an affair. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix, but there is hope in knowing that peace in the relationship is attainable at a more rapid pace if you are dedicated to recovery.
Recovery from an affair takes an average of two years. To speed the process along, in a nutshell, progress for the couple is determined by the amount of effort put into recovery by the couple, and primarily by the person who had the affair. The focus has to shift from being a person who made choices that were not good for the relationship and/or family, to becoming dedicated to putting action into effect and making choices that help to heal the relationships they have damaged. What does this mean? In order to receive forgiveness you have to earn it. To earn forgiveness and trust you have to want it, and you have to be dedicated to helping your partner recover. I've had many couples come in for therapy and get off to a great start in repairing the relationship. In time (2-3 months) they feel better, stop coming to therapy, or become less dedicated to following the rules of being diligent about helping their partner heal. At this point, old behaviors start to surface and result in the couple feeling stuck. They usually return to therapy. At this point the couple is now on the road to dealing with further hurt, potential issues that may have resurfaced, and most painfully, further disconnect. This typically results in feeling lonely, isolated, depressed, irritated, hateful, etc... What happened is the Honey Moon period after the affair ended. The affair kicked the relationship into a place where they were dedicated to recovery, and for some, a time of connection in recovery and piecing their lives back together. If the couple does not remain dedicated to growth individually and as a couple with a viable support system in place, they slip back into dealing with the feelings they had prior to the affair and issues resurface. In order to prevent this from happening, here is a short list of steps that you can take to speed up the process, keep progress on track and rebuild your relationship:
1. Cut off all contact with the affair partner
2. * Be honest with your spouse and answer all their questions honestly each and every time you discuss the affair. This is key to regaining trust. If you are leaving out information and your spouse wants to know everything, you are setting yourself up for a long and difficult journey. If you feel that the affair is personal to you and is not your spouse's business, your chances of having a healthy and recovered relationship with your partner are minimal.
3. Expect to be questioned over and over. This is normal. Your partner will stop questioning you when they believe you, trust you, and feel secure in the relationship again. Keep in mind that an affair can take two years to recover from. The first year will be spent answering questions over and over if this step is not taken seriously.
I treat an affair as a trauma in my practice and it is common for victims of trauma to think about their trauma often. If your spouse seems obsessed with the affair you can lessen this by showing you care about their feelings and discussing the affair with them openly and honestly. Show you care! If you don't care your relationship will not last in the long run. Be honest about your feelings.
4. Find a therapist you like and stick with them regularly for at least one year. Therapy is time consuming and expensive, but divorce and a broken family is emotionally traumatic, more time consuming and more expensive. Especially if there are children involved, the damage and trauma is greatly in need of repair.
Why one therapist? Having more than one therapist is often times like having too many cooks in the kitchen. You may go to one therapist as a couple and individually. Many therapists are not fully understanding of the dynamics of an affair, and they advise that less talk about the affair is better. If you don't want the relationship to survive this is sound advice, but if you are trying to repair the relationship, you need to deal with the devastation and address the other issues in your life after the affair has been processed. I've lost clients trying to deal with other issues too quickly. Processing the affair is of great importance in recovery from an affair and building a solid foundation for your relationship. Your relationship was torn apart and is now in need of cleanup and an experienced professional that will help you get your life back. Dealing with why it happened is also mandatory to prevent another affair or damaging type of behavior from surfacing and causing issues in your relationship again. Typically this will come in time, after the affair is dealt with.
5. If you have children be there for them and listen to how they feel. Children are brought into the mix of their parent's issues and their lives are greatly impacted. They also need security and validation in knowing that their feelings matter.
As far as lists are concerned this is a short one with a lot of information, but it includes the components needed to establishing a good start in recovery from an affair. If your relationship has ended and you are dealing with the affair on your own, you need to process the affair, and this can be extremely confusing. Understanding why you are feeling what you are feeling will help. When you feel at peace and the thought of the affair is no longer extremely hurtful for you, you will know that you are on the right path.