Many couples in the U.S. and around the world have experienced the unfortunate, painful betrayal of an extramarital affair. Contrary to popular belief, numerous couples decide to forgo counseling and work through marital discord after infidelity instead of simply calling it quits. (If you haven’t already, Read Part#1 of this popular article)
As a marriage therapist and relationship coach, I get the opportunity to assist hurting relationships at my marriage retreats. Often, I get asked the question, “How do I start to heal after an affair?” I have listed some starting points to help assist with this difficult process.
When clients struggle with beginning the healing process, we often have an open discussion about defining forgiveness. It is difficult to come to grips with the fact that someone else experienced what and who you are entitled to exclusively.
When couples choose to work through this its important to note that forgiveness should take place even if you decide to leave your partner. Despite the emotional pain and disappointment, forgiveness benefits the person that extends the gesture.
Yes, forgiveness can certainly be a process, however, the longer you hold onto resentment and bitterness, the more you open yourself up for sickness, depression and anxiety.
You can even choose to forgive someone that is unapologetic. Forgiveness is for you and is not an open door to be mistreated. Forgiveness releases you from the prison that unforgiveness creates.
Another way to assist with your healing is to only ask questions that are pertinent to closure. After an affair, there are legitimate questions that need to be answered.
Questions such as where, when and how arrangements and meetings were accomplished with the affair partner can be helpful. Knowing this can give you insight into how your partner was able to cover up. This information can assist you with setting boundaries.
However, I do not advise you ask questions concerning details about sexual experiences such as positions and comparisons, etc. These questions will only lead you down a darker path that you may not be able to return from. You know that an affair took place.
Most likely all the things that you can imagine that happens in an affair, happened. If you are looking to move forward, do so with the understanding that desire, fantasy and deceit played a major role.
The third suggestion I have is to establish boundaries. I have couples do this together. Although it may seem like an opportunity to place rules on the partner that cheated, it’s really an agreed upon safe guard for your marriage.
These boundaries usually include established ways to incorporate transparency and renewed partnership. It may be sharing passwords for phones, checking in with location and in extreme cases, changing jobs.
The boundaries are agreed upon by the couple as a way to start rebuilding trust. If both partners are completely open and honest for a consistent period of time, trust has a greater chance of being reestablished.
Affairs can be extremely devastating and make you question your self as well as your own judgment. If you are struggling with moving forward and want help overcoming the pain, please seek help from a professional counselor. These suggestions are simply starting points for attempting to move forward, forgive and restore trust.