"Now what?" A guide to surviving an affair
Did you recently discover that your spouse cheated on you? Or, have you been struggling for some time to move your marriage beyond an infidelity?
Surviving an affair isn’t easy. In fact, the process of healing from an affair is a bit like healing from cancer. The infidelity can be like a foreign malignant invasion that’s grown in the body of your marriage.
At the same time, many couples do push through. And many couples say that after the hard years of healing, their relationship ends up even stronger in the end.
How do they do it? How can you and your spouse heal after whats happened? Here’s a brief guide for surviving an affair.
Stage 1: Allow yourself to mourn the loss of what was.
Breathe. Hearing of a spouse’s infidelity can knock your breath away. Sit in a comfortable chair and, if you feel like it, let yourself cry. You’re grieving a huge loss -- the loss of trust in your spouse’s sexual faithfulness.
And then, go for a walk. Digesting difficult emotions takes energy, and it’s important to see the world around you and remind yourself that life still has many beauties even though at the moment you feel devastated.
Stage 2: Learn the skills you’ll need to talk things through
As you move forward, you’re going to need to do a lot of talking with your spouse. Here’s the key though – you are way more likely to be successful if you have learned good communication skills. Can you talk together without the conversation getting overheated? Can you talk without either of you getting defensive? Can you make decisions together about your new life that feel mutually satisfying or do your decisions include someone or both of you feeling like you’re compromising?
The Power of Two Online teaches the skills you’ll need to have difficult conversations. As a Power of Two member, you’ll also get a marriage skills coach who can help you out along the way. Start your journey by joining the Power of Two Online to be sure you can move forward safely and successfully.
Stage 3: Lay the foundation for rebuilding.
After an affair, most people find it essential to get all of the facts out on the table. Telling and hearing the truth can be painful, like cleaning a dirty wound. Still, healing is easier if your spouse is able to tolerate the feelings of guilt and shame enough to level with you fully about the shape and size of the infidelity. Lies can put a stick in the wheel of recovery.
Your job during this conversation is to stay emotionally calm enough to make the environment safe for your spouse to come clean.
It’s important also to get the third party totally out of the picture. What does your partner need to do to be sure there is, to whatever extent possible, no further contact with that person of any sort?
With the truth out, and the cancerous element removed, your conversations now can focus on learning. You both need to understand what were the steps leading up to the infidelity, and what roll you each played.
You might ask, "If I’m the victim, why should I have to look at what I did? This wasn’t my fault!"
That’s true. At the same time, for a full recovery, the more both of you learn about what you did that impacted what happened, and therefore how to prevent a similar episode in the future, the more quickly you both will heal. Simply blaming your partner will keep you locked in upset.
As difficult as it may sound, surviving an affair depends on both you and your spouse growing and learning from the experience.
Stage 4: Rebuild something new and better.
Just surviving isn’t aiming high enough. You can create a new, stronger, more loving, more trusting relationship than you ever had. Together, you can transform your mistakes into opportunities for learning. Create new patterns in your relationship that correct the mistakes that led up to the infidelity. Develop preventive plans, together, so that nothing like this ever happens, for either of you, again.
Mourn your loss. Learn new skills. Lay a new foundation. Learn from both of your mistakes and rebuild a new, more perfect union.