Recovering from infidelity is a unique journey for every couple. But there are obvious signs along the way that your unfaithful spouse is becoming part of the healing process and not part of the pain.
Ending the affair is the Holy Grail of recovering from infidelity.
But one of the ways you’ll know that you’re on the fast track to healing from Infidelity is if your unfaithful spouse ends the affair in front of you.
This could be an email or a phone call. The problem with a phone call is the dialogue back and forth undermines the structure and goal of ending the affair. Email is better.
Your spouse gets bonus points for ending the affair in front of you by sending an unequivocal email, referencing the hurt and pain they caused by their indiscretion.
They might send something like this: “My spouse is beside me as I write this. I will not see you again. I have caused my spouse tremendous pain, and I have committed myself to make amends and work on my marriage. Please do not contact me. If you do, I will only show the email to my partner, and we will again ask you to stop contacting me. Again, please do not contact me. I wish you well. Goodbye.
Affairs can operate on the brain as an addiction. You and your partner are recovering from infidelity when the affair is ended firmly and unequivocally.
It’s best if your spouse tells their affair partner twice to stop all contact in the email. Also, it’s helpful if your partner tells them that if they ignore the request for no contact, the two of you will handle all communication from the affair partner as a united front.
Issues indeed may have existed before the affair that served to create an environment conducive to infidelity. And frankly, even though you are the Hurt Partner, you may have had a role in creating that environment.
Many spouses have issues and remain faithful. Another sign that you are both healing from infidelity is when your partner takes full responsibility for their behavior without blaming you in any way.
This can be quite uncomfortable for both of you.
The norm of privacy has been temporarily forfeited. Everything must be on the table and open for inspection. Laptops. Cellphones Passwords. Tablets.
Whether or not you decide to dig into their correspondence is your call. You’ll know you’re well on the way to recovering from infidelity when your partner complies with this seemingly unreasonable demand.
I get it. Nobody should have to live under a microscope. But this isn’t about fairness. It’s about rebuilding trust. And it should not be permanent. But asking “when can I have my privacy back?” is the wrong question at the wrong time. Transparency accelerates healing and affair recovery.
Do they check in with you and ask how you’re doing? Do they express sorrow and remorse without being prompted? Are they invested in your emotional world? If the answer is yes, you are on the path to recovering from infidelity. Another important idea is when either of you brings it up, set a time limit on discussing the infidelity.
It’s best if you limit yourselves to 20 or 30 minutes. Don’t let the infidelity be the toxic centerpiece in your marriage. Ask questions as they come up, don’t stack up your resentments. Keep spending time together and keep talking, but avoid exhausting conversational marathons. Spend time talking about ordinary everyday stuff too.
Science-based couples therapy can not only help heal your marriage; it can support you both in your efforts to have an even stronger intimate bond.
Couples therapy can help you with both unpack relational vulnerabilities. Couples that suffer through the aftermath of an affair, and don’t pursue couples therapy typically fall into unhealthy patterns that needlessly complicate affair recovery.
In the initial stages, it’s hard to believe that you won’t be miserable for the rest of your life. Discovering your spouse’s infidelity is a trauma, and grief is a normal part of the process.
When your straying partner shows empathy for the grief that the affair has caused, and can patiently engage with you, recovering from infidelity will continue to the degree that you can accept and forgive.
But if the only emotional reactions that your straying spouse expresses are annoyance and irritation with your inability to “get over it,” recovering from infidelity is going more prolonged and painful. Impatience and toxic shame thwart acceptance and forgiveness.
You might want to ask yourself if forgiveness or acceptance is an option for you. Staying in your marriage, while keeping your partner in the perpetual doghouse “til death do you part” is not a reasonable option.
Your task is to lay out what you need to heal clearly. Your spouse’s mission is to act on what you need. These are the twin tasks of affair recovery.
If you are mired in the swamp of inconsolability and emotional dysregulation, recovering from infidelity will be impossible.
Every Hurt Partner is different. But almost always, Hurt Partners hunger for details of the affair.
In couples therapy, we help hurt partners get at the essential questions that need to be answered, while carefully avoiding creating new triggers.
Once a question is asked and answered, the Genie cannot be put back in the bottle.
When your knowledge concerning the details of the affair has increased, your nervous system has a chance to calm down. Your rumination will fade and become gradually less intrusive.
You’re not as obsessed anymore. You know that you’re recovering from infidelity because you’re becoming more emotionally regulated during these fact-finding conversations, and perhaps even during other discussions about unrelated marital problems as well.
This becomes a virtuous circle. The more regulated you become during thoughtful time-limited conversations, the more your partner feels safe engaging in them with you.
Two of the crucial benefits of scientific couples therapy are skill-building around questions and effective trigger management.
Where triggers once were a source of hostile disconnection, couples recovering from infidelity learn in couples therapy precisely how to use the inevitability of triggers to reverse that disconnection and recruit triggers as a tool to rebuild trust and intimacy.
Trigger management is an important skill. You don’t want your kids to have a ringside seat on your arguments.
You want them to see you both healing and calming down, don’t you?
Your relationship will never be the same. Admit it. It’s Ok. Free yourselves from the chains of false expectations.
You’re on the road to healing from infidelity when you both stop expressing sentiments like “I just want things to be the way they used to be.” This nostalgia for your former relationship will not serve either of you.
Better to say: “This sucks doesn’t it?”
You will never be the same, and that’s a good thing.
Recovering from infidelity is an opportunity for post-traumatic growth. It will take time, and your progress probably will be uneven…three steps forward…two steps back. But you will progress nonetheless. And you will also have deep and meaningful conversations with each other along the way.
You will get over it. Yes, it will take time, and it will be worth it.
Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He is the Blog Editor. He currently works online seeing couples from Massachusetts at Couples Therapy Inc. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and the Developmental Model in his approaches.