Whether it be a broken arm from a skiing accident or a concussion from a car crash, physical injuries need time and the proper care to heal. For your arm to heal, it needs to be braced into a cast and eventually reintroduced to movement through slow, incremental physical therapy. For your concussion to subside, you need to rest and allow your head to settle back into normalcy after the trauma. Do these injuries hurt? Of course. Do you survive? Without a doubt.
Emotional injuries are no different. The stabbing of your soul and the shots to your psyche are certainly painful. But, just like a broken arm or a severe concussion, you will survive. It will take time and proper care, but the emotional wounds that infidelity or an affair create can be healed. Patience and proper care are the key. Below you will find the best ways to take care of yourself so that you can survive the worst emotional scar of all: a cheating partner.
Get all the details on the table
Have you ever had to get a broken arm reset before they put the cast on? If you haven’t you may know someone who has experienced such a painful episode. You’d think that the initial breaking of the arm would be the worst part, until they tell you that they need to yank it back into alignment so that it can heal properly.
The same concept can be applied to the fresh wound of infidelity in a marriage: it’s going to get worse before it gets better. More importantly–with both the broken arm and with your marriage–it needs to get worse before it gets better. The initial wave of pain may have subsided, but you need to revisit it so that your broken appendage or your relationship can mend in a healthy way.
Once the affair is out in the open, you and your spouse need to get all the details straight.
- When did it start?
- How often did they cheat?
- Is there still contact?
All of those deep, unsettling questions need to be answered in order for the opportunity of trust to be rebuilt. Without knowing the hurtful answers to these questions, you will be left to fill in the blanks for yourself. What’s more painful than the facts of the infidelity? The stories that you create in your mind about what happened, how you let it happen, and how it is probably still ongoing. Get the facts. They will be tough to swallow, but they are so important to let the healing process begin.
Nobody wants the doctor to grab, twist, and reset their broken arm to get it in alignment for proper healing. But the doctor knows it is what’s best for the arm’s long term health.
The facts about your spouse’s affair will be equally painful, but just as important to the healing process.
Practice patience as you forgive
It’s no secret that your relationship will not survive without forgiveness from the scorned party of the marriage, but it can’t be a given. It needs to be worked toward, but not automatically granted. If you were the person wronged by a cheating partner, you need to wrestle with your anger and contemplate forgiveness simultaneously. While you work through these two emotions, your partner needs to double down on their patience in the process of forgiveness.
If they truly want things to work out between the two of you, they must understand that the trust has disappeared from their relationship due to their actions. They must be patient with you as you are patient with the process. You won’t be able to forgive them overnight, but if you commit to rebuilding the relationship, eventually you will. Forgiveness is the only path to get there, but the rate at which you travel that path is up to you.
This may seem obvious, but so many couples take the “do it yourself” approach to repairing a broken marriage. The objectivity of a counselor or psychologist will shed some light on both the causes and the effects of the affair, and can help you and your spouse see your way through it. Don’t discount the help of a professional because you don’t want other people in on your relationship’s trauma. That extra set of eyes and ears will prove invaluable to future of your marriage.
Set time aside to discuss the infidelity
Whether it be with a couples counselor or in your own home, set specific guidelines to when you will hash it out about the affair. This may seem like we’re letting the adulterer off easy by confining the difficult work to an hour or so a day, but this technique will help the person who has been stepped out on as well. If you don’t set guidelines on your discussion of the affair, the effects of the adultery will permeate through your day, at your job, and with your interactions with others. By knowing that you have this hour or half hour to let your emotions and feelings fly will allow you to be more present in the other parts of your life.
Build trust slowly through open communication
A long and loving marriage has a foundation in trust and honesty; infidelity will tear apart that foundation in the blink of an eye. As you and your partner begin to work on your relationship in the aftermath, rebuild that trust incrementally. After you’ve put all the details on the table, don’t just assume that you can go back to the way it was.
If you’re feeling uneasy about something, bring it up (in a compassionate way). Allow them to comfort you through more honest communication. Keeping a lid on your feelings and not discussing important issues may very well have been a reason that your relationship took the turn that it did. Since you are building from the bottom up now, make sure that you are both open and honest so that you can begin to trust each other’s words and actions again.
They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. True, but only after a long road of rehabilitation. In order to survive an emotional wound like infidelity, you need to give it the same care you would a physical injury: time, patience, and attention to detail. You can survive an affair, but it will take work. Use the tips above to begin that healing process and get your marriage back on track.