Before we delve into the steps required to recover from infidelity, the big question is, how did this happen? How did your marriage fall so far that one of you would stray?
Infidelity can take on many forms, from emotional to intimate in nature.
But the important thing that has happened is a breach of trust.
When infidelity happens, it means one of the spouses has broken the marriage vow to only have eyes for their spouse. You two built up a life together—but now it feels like it is crumbling.
Once you reach acceptance that infidelity has actually happened, your next few questions will be these: Can we make it? Can our marriage last after this ultimate act of betrayal? Can we recover from infidelity? How to recover from infidelity?
Getting over an affair will depend on many factors, but it is possible to get past this and perhaps even become a stronger couple than ever before.
Infidelity recovery timeline
There are helpful steps that can be taken that facilitate healing, but it still takes time.
There is no shortcut to recover from infidelity. Some couples establish a timeline of one year for post affair recovery, for others, it is two.
Most importantly, both partners must be committed to repairing the damage, rebuilding trust and heal their marriage. So, the sooner you get help, the better.
Trauma after an affair is dilapidating for the cheated spouse. The betrayed partner often wonders, “how long to recover from infidelity?”.
It is a long process before you experience recovery from an emotional affair or a physical affair in a marriage.
Infidelity recovery stages
Before we look into tips on how to recover from infidelity, it is crucial to understand the stages of recovery from infidelity.
Although there is no one size fits all formula for stages of healing after infidelity, as each couple has its unique situation, it is advisable to look into the generalized principles of stages of affair recovery.
The trauma phase is the most difficult stage when an affair is disclosed or discovered. The revelation shatters your confidence and makes you feel like your whole world is collapsing. It is advisable not to make any decisions about the future course of your relationship during this grief phase, as you are left feeling lonely, angry and confused.
The coming to terms or understanding stage happenswhen you have begun to move past your initial denial, and anger and confusion. At this stage, you may become hopeful for the future if you decide you want to stay together. You will be willing to understand how the affair happened and process where your contribution lies in your relationship meltdown and the affair that followed.
Developing the new relationship stage announces the most crucial decision about staying together as a couple, or letting go and moving on. If you decide to rebuild a future together with the help of expert professional intervention, you will be able to find ways to make the marriage work for you with newfound understanding, flexibility and strength in your marital partnership.
Here are some tips on how to get past an affair and how to recover from infidelity.
Recovering from an affair 101
1. Reach the point of full disclosure
After the infidelity, the spouse who was betrayed will feel completely helpless; they have no information and will continually wonder what happened.
In fact, they may become obsessed over the turn of events. The imagination tends to go wild when it is just depending on speculation.
After the initial shock of the news is over, agree to meet and talk about how things happened. Be sure you are both ready because this will be an intense conversation.
But it has to be done.
It’s time to reach the point of full disclosure. The betrayed spouse deserves to know what happened from the person who did it, and the guilty parties need to have an opportunity to set the record straight.
The important thing is for both of you to be completely honest; it’s also important for everyone to gauge their readiness and ask for an additional meeting later so you can digest the information over time.
Each party is going to feel bad for a while. So, how to get over an affair?
Obviously the spouse who was cheated on will feel betrayed and even belittled; but the spouse who cheated will likely have a whirlwind of feelings too, including guilt and sorrow for the wrongs committed. And both spouses will be mourning what their relationship used to be.
Recovering from this infidelity requires both spouses to offer empathy for the other. It also requires each of them to not wallow in their own self-pity. Yes, they both feel terrible about what has happened to them. But consider the feelings of the other person.
The more you both can focus on how the other person is feeling, the easier it will be to recover from your own troubled feelings.
3. Apologize and take responsibility
As hard as the words are to say, each person involved needs to hear that the other is sorry.
Obviously the person who cheated should apologize for cheating in such a way that the other spouse knows of a surety that they truly are sorry.
But both spouses also need to talk about and say they are sorry for what led to the marriage ending up in this situation.
Then, they each must accept the other’s apologies—even if it takes some time to get to that point—so they can move on. And then both spouses need to take responsibility for any misdeeds that relate to the infidelity.
4. Decide whether to stay together
Do you still love each other? This question is really at the heart of where things will go from here. Even if there is just an ounce of love, it’s enough.
You can decide together to move forward. Of course, you can’t force the other spouse to stay—you can only control your own decisions. So talk about it.
If you stayed together, what would your lives be like? If you stayed together, you could build an even stronger bond. Just make sure to have the conversation so you both know where things will go from here.
5. Rebuild trust in your marriage
Once you are back to square one, it’s time to start rebuilding.
If you want to recover from infidelity, unfortunately, you have to start from the beginning again. But don’t look at it as a chore—look at it as an opportunity. Number one, it’s time to get in touch with a marriage therapist.
You need a third party to help mediate emotions and also talk about the important issues that will come up. Rebuilding trust is not for the faint of heart—it will force you to face the most vulnerable parts of yourself.
Commit to seeing each other through it, hand in hand, and you can recover from this together.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.