As a therapist that works withaffair couples, I can say with certainty that couples that choose to work at their relationship after an affair tell me that their relationship is better than ever.
Some have told me that they were even glad the affair happened in the first place. A bold statement for sure. If you are reading this blog and an affair has recently been disclosed, you might not feel the same way right now or ever feel that way. I encourage you to keep reading to know how to recover from the affair.
Can you heal after an affair?
Post affair recovery is a long- term process.
According to the research it can take 18 months to two years to completely recover from the affair and repair the relationship. To heal from a cheating spouse and rebuild the broken bonds is a delicate process.
I am going to condense it for the purposes of this blog.
After the crisis has settled and the involved partner has recommitted to the relationship, the real work of recovery from infidelity begins.
To recover from the affair, the recommitment part is important and that means making sure that the non involved partner is the number one priority. This takes time and work to get this new space.
Both parties are often anxious to know why the affair happened.
The non involved partner doesn’t want to be blamed.
Partner behavior during affair recovery
Typically, there is an emotionally withdrawn partner that is emotionally avoidant. Frequently this partner is also shocked that the affair happened. It happens because the avoidant partner hasn’t been paying attention to their feelings.
The withdrawn partner reports they were lonely in the relationship and the affair partner offered the emotional connection that was missing from the relationship.
The affair couple starts to connect and talk deeply about themselves and become close and the affair begins. This affair feels great to the withdrawn partner, because they feel alive and seen due to all of the sharing.
The problem is that with the wrong person and the issues of being out of touch with their emotions and the problems in the primary relationship haven’t been addressed. Some withdrawn partners don’t see this and mistake the feelings as real and attribute it to the affair partner.
They commonly have been trying in various ways to let their withdrawn partner know they are concerned. At times, it might even come across in a harsh or angry way which causes the more withdrawn partner to avoid even more.
This partner sometimes manages the disconnection in the relationship by becoming involved with work, the kids or other activities to distract themselves from feeling alone in the relationship.
Also, they might turn up the heat and get angrier and angrier at the withdrawn partner hoping for change.
Affair: The Reverse Side
Affairs can happen in the reverse as well.
The partner upset about the lack of connection may finally give up and find themselves in an affair and the withdrawn partner becomes so shocked and dismayed that they now start to show up and try to engage.
This presentation isn’t quite as common. The involved partner here may be quite angry that it took an affair to wake up their avoidant partner.
How to better your relationship
There are ways to make a relationship better and recover from the affair.
The process of recovering from infidelity is one of helping both parties engage in conversations differently than they have previously.
During therapy the more withdrawn avoidant person becomes more in touch with their emotions and communicates about them fully and completely to heal after infidelity or recover from the affair.
During these more meaningful conversations, both partners learn to connect in a way that they have never done before that helps them in improving the relationship.
Typically, these conversations include an expression of how the affair affected the non-involved partner’s view of themselves and view of their partner with a request for a deep emotional need to be met. The more withdrawn partner is engaged and open and can receive this request now.
Many of my couples tell me even years later that they have “affair-proofed” their relationship, because they know how to communicate deeply to each other that helped them recover from the affair.
In the video below, Mike Potter discusses six stages of couple communication. The first two stages are about small talks and sharing facts respectively. Learn more from him below:
It doesn’t mean that couples are communicating deeply all of the time, they are communicating in key moments when they need it. They are also in tune with themselves and their partner. When they recover from the affair, that is the unexpected outcome of an affair- a deeper level of engagement and connection.
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.
We help people in relationships (individuals, couples, family members) who have been negatively impacted by affairs, addictions, betrayal, communication issues, emotional needs not being met, attachment injuries, narcissism, and unhealthy behaviors. We help you uncover, understand, validate and recover from negative emotions and feelings, behaviors, beliefs and actions, perceived and real.
Our core values are reflected in our therapy and how we care for you throughout the counseling experience:
Respectfor everyone involved in the process and for each other.
Compassionin how we deliver our care.
Excellencein standards of care, best in class training, and results.